The Evolution of 3d Printing
The history of 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, maybe longer than you believe. Identified below is a chronological diary of events and possible future predictions for this technology going forward.
The first documented evidence of 3D printing is traced to the early 1980s in Japan. In the early 80’s, Hideo Kodama was busy trying to develop a rapid prototyping system. He figured out a layer by layer approach for manufacturing, using a photosensitive resin that was polymerized by UV light. This being an early version of the modern day SLA machine.
Charles Hull, filed the first patent for Stereolithography (SLA). An American furniture builder who was frustrated with not being able to easily create small custom parts, Hull developed a system for creating 3D models by curing photosensitive resin layer by layer. In 1986 he submitted his patent application, and in 1988 he went on to found the 3D Systems Corp. The first commercial SLA 3D printer, the SLA-1, was released by his company in 1988.
In 1988, Carl Deckard at the University of Texas filed the patent for Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology. This system fused powders, instead of liquid, using a laser.
Scott Crump also managed to patent Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) towards the late 80’s FDM, also called Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), differs from SLS and SLA in that rather than using light, filament is directly extruded from a heated nozzle. FFF technology has gone on to become the most common form of 3D printing we see today.
These three technologies are not the only types of 3D printing methods that exist. But, they are the three that serve as the building blocks that would lay the groundwork for the technology to grow and for the industry to be disrupted.
In the 90s, many startup businesses were experimenting with the different additive manufacturing technologies. Tthe first freely available SLS printer was released In 2006, changing the vision of designers and enthusiasts, creating real time demand manufacturing of industrial parts.
Through the 2000’s, many different CAD platforms became more accessible. CAD is a key tool in the process of creating a 3d printed component.
During this time, the machines were very different from those that we use now. They were difficult to use, expensive, and many of the final prints required a lot of post processing. But innovations were happening every day and new discoveries, methods, and practices were being refined and invented. In 2008, the first prosthetic leg was printed, propelling 3D printing into the spotlight and introducing the term to millions across the globe. In 2009, the FDM patents filed in the 80s fell into the public domain, opening the door for innovation. Technology was now more available to new companies and competition, hence allowing the price of 3D printers to reduce and 3D printing to become more accessible.
3D Printing Present and Future
In the 2010s, the prices of 3D printers started to reduce dramatically , making them available to the general public. Along with the lowering prices, the quality and ease of printing also increased.
The materials that printers use have also evolved. Now there are a variety of plastics and filaments that are widely available.
A game changer arrived in 2016, Multi Jet Fusion from Hewlett Packard. It is a powder bed fusion 3D printing technology. The company explains its technology is built on decades of HP’s investment in inkjet printing, jettable materials, precision low-cost mechanics, material science, and imaging.
The technology gets its name from the multiple inkjet heads that carry out the printing process. The processes of material recoating and agent distribution and heating are carried out by separate head arrays that move across the print bed in different directions, thus allowing the user to optimize both processes independently. The Process is measured as upto to 10 times faster than SLS
Materials like Carbon Fiber and Glass Fiber are now a regular print media. Experimenting with printing materials like cement, coppers, stainless’s and even chocolate or pasta are continually being tested!
3D printing is now consistently used in developing hearing aids and Dental treatments. Many Industries are adopting 3d as a stable and sustainable processing technique to support their business values.
3D Printing is a processing technique that will grow in stature and is currently challenging the very best traditional manufacturing methods. What this Space!